Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: By A Thread

(Elemental Assassin #6)
Jennifer Estep
Urban Fantasy
384 Pages
Available February 28th
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When killing people is your job, there’s no such thing as a vacation.

Then again, how often does an assassin live long enough to enjoy her retirement? In this line of work, you either get lucky or you get dead. And since I destroyed my nemesis Mab Monroe a few weeks ago, all of Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning to make a name for themselves by taking out the lethal Spider—me, Gin Blanco. So I’m leaving behind my beloved barbecue joint and heading south with my baby sister, Bria, to cool my heels in a swanky beach town. Call it a weekend of fun in the sun.

But when a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic threatens an old friend of Bria’s, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. Complicating matters further is the reappearance of Detective Donovan Caine, my old lover. But Donovan is the least of my problems. Because this time, the danger is hot on my trail, and not even my elemental Ice and Stone magic may be enough to save me from getting buried in the sand—permanently.

As hugely entertaining as ever, By A Thread makes it crystal clear yet again how wonderful a storyteller Ms. Estep truly is, delighting us with humor and charm while at the same time pushing every single one of our emotional buttons as Gin continues to grow as a person, an assassin, a sister, and a lover. It’s easy to start this latest story wondering where things can possibly go after the epic showdown and fiery conclusion to the Mab Monroe storyline, questioning whether or not this installment will feel somehow empty without her dark and sinister presence. Our musings and our hesitancy are for naught however, as Ms. Estep ratchets up the emotional intensity to an all time high and gives us a new villain who easily rivals Mab in evil deeds done to others, raising the fine hairs on our arms with his sick games and his certainty that he's untouchable.

Gin has always been the highlight of these books, her strength as a killer-for-hire-turned-pro-bono-defender-of-the-weak always beautifully combined with an innate vulnerability when it comes to those she cares for. In By A Thread, that vulnerability is particularly acute, and like the silverstone embedded in her palms and the blades she brandishes she absorbs everything thrown her way, taking every callous word, disdainful look, and snide comment from those she would easily give her life for into herself and storing it there without so much as a word to her own defense. She gladly hides her own pain, sliding her cold assassin mask in place to spare those around her any guilt or hurt as a result of what she does in the dark of night, and we can’t help but want to scream out loud so that all may hear the virtues we see in her, voicing our opinion of the woman she is and silencing those who judge her for the reputation she carries.

Back to torment both us and Gin is Donovan Caine, his righteousness in full force despite the time that’s passed since he left Ashland and Gin behind without so much as a kind word of parting. He’s as demeaning as ever, verbally berating her for everything he thinks she is or isn’t, but things have changed for Gin in the time since his departure, and it’s beyond satisfying to read Donovan side by side with Owen as Owen proves to us again and again just how clearly he sees Gin when everyone else is blind to anything other than her role as The Spider. He’s never fooled by the mask she wears or the defenses she puts up, and she allows him to see her emotionally bare knowing she’ll never see a look of disgust in those violet eyes at what’s revealed.

In additional to the turmoil surrounding Donovan’s sudden reappearance, we also have a spectacular new villain who challenges Gin physically and mentally at every turn, constantly keeping us on our toes as we are reminded that Gin is not infallible and that her mistakes are often bloody ones. Though we ultimately know Gin will come out on top, Ms. Estep ensures that the journey to victory is not one easily walked, hearts as bruised and broken as Gin's body is before The Spider shows everyone once again what she’s really made of. The closing pages are perhaps the most rewarding of all as Gin confronts past and present demons both physical and emotional, finally refusing to absorb any more rancor in silence and letting the wounds inflicted by words wielded with unprecedented expertise be seen by those who have done the most damage with them.

Rating: 4.5/5


  1. This sounds like a great series. I like the combo of strength with vulnerability.
    Btw...sorry on being a bad commenter lately. My parents were in town last weekend and we traveled. I'm heading out of town again this weekend. Hopefully I'll get things back to normal after that.

  2. Another awesome series to read by Jennifer Estep! Oh my gosh, I already have a bunch of her books on my TBR pile because everyone tends to love her books, and now I need to add the Elemental Assassins to my list too! x) Characters like Gin, who'll break my heart and make me want to cheer for her are, are my favourite, and YAY for Donovan! I love reading about boyfriends from girlfriend's past -- returning flames are the sweetest! ;)

    Awesome review, Jenny! :) I love how you can make my TBR pile grow 6 books with 1 review! x) <3

  3. AWESOME! I am so looking forward to reading this and some really weird part of me is glad D is making an appearance. I think there needs to be closer there and if it brings her closer to Owen, then so be it!

  4. I still haven't read the fifth book, but I'm glad to see that these are still getting good ratings!

  5. So now I have two to read--I just got the previous one on my Kindle. This sounds great! I was a little worried that, once Mab was gone, Gin'd chill out. Sounds like not, especially with Donovan and Owen lurking (yay). Now I'm ready for some good, butt-kicking fun!

  6. I haven't read much Urban Fantasy. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one.

  7. Excellent review and Ms. Estep does a fantastic job of moving Gin along after the Mab match up. Job well done to both of you.

  8. Alison - I can't even tell you how much I adore this series! I highly recommend:) And no worries on the commenting!

    Mimi - I love her books, she's an auto-buy author for me. But no YAY for Donovan, he's an a-hole. Big YAY for Owen though, he doesn't show up until a couple books in, but he's worth the wait:)

    Felicia - I was glad Donovan came back too, things were left unresolved with them and I couldn't have loved the way she wrote their scenes together anymore if I'd tried:)

    Amanda - LOVE them. This might be my favorite yet:)

    Mary - I was worried about Mab's absence as well, how do you follow her? But I though she did a brilliant job with this book.

    Jennifer - It's not a genre for everyone, but I adore it:)

  9. Cathy - Thanks! I know you love this series as much as I do:)

  10. I bought the first three books at my B&N closing sale but haven't started the series yet.
    It's nice to know that it hasn't faltered after 6 books.

  11. I apparently suck. I have the first book sitting on my shelve, waiting and demanding to be read. I'm bumping this one up higher on my list. Glad to know this series is going strong and Gin is definitely sounds like my type of heroine that I wish I could be.

  12. :D I take it you like this author??Ive heard ravings about this series...but it might be one of those out of my comfort zone books....

    I do think I should invest in a pair of hot pants....LOL

  13. How amazing was Owen? I think Gin handled Donovan very well but there's a part of me that wishes Owen got to take a swing at him. Another great review Jenny!

    Paranormal Haven

  14. I don't read too much in the way of adult books, but I am thinking that I will have to read these (after all, I did read Chloe Neill's "Chicagoland Vampire" series after hearing y'all talk about it and absolutely loved it)... Thanks for the great review, Jenny!

  15. I just read another positive review of this today. Everyone seems to love it! I haven't actually read any of the books in this series before but it sounds like I should get started soon. awesome review, Jenny! You have convinced me that Jennifer Estep must be an awesome writer to have gotten such a great review. It's great that you still enjoy it 6 books in. :)

  16. Karen - I don't think they've faltered at all, I think they keep getting better. I love how much Gin seems to grow:)

    Rummanah - Gin is someone you're not sure you're going to like in the first book, but I adore her and think she gets stronger and more interesting as she goes.

    Tina - Hahaha yes. Yes I do:) You would look hot in hot pants. Do it.

    Paranormal - RIGHT!!!! I love him so much:) I wouldn't have minded in Owen had punched Donovan in the face, he deserved it. But Gin took care of things:)

    Avery - I hope you give this series a try! Definitely darker than the Chicagoland books, but I love them:)

    Sam - Jennifer is amazing, I highly recommend both this series and her YA Mythos Academy series.

  17. What? Book 6! Already? Why do brilliant authros have to be so brilliant all the time and keep popping out awesome books before I can finish saying "I'm lame for not having read this series yet"? Why?

    I must find out who this Donovan is...he sounds like the type that would have me fangirling over him by simply blinking his eyes or even yawning in my direction. And Owen too. Any man that is capable of recognizing the strength in a woman is totally swoony.

  18. Gah!!!! I absolutely LOATHE myself for not having read this series yet! I'm not even joking. Totally freaking MAD.

  19. The fact that everyone is loving these makes me want to try the series again. But book 1 failed to impress

  20. I just read another glowing review on this one by
    Maja at The Nocturnal Library. I am kicking myself for not getting to this series sooner. Your review was terrific instilling in me the need to read these books,

  21. Missie - I know! It's hard to keep up with all the awesomeness coming out this year:) I think you'll really enjoy Owen. Donovan I dislike with every fiber of my being, he doesn't deserve Gin! You'll see why if you read:)

    Ashley - Get on it then woman! Self-loathe no longer and read them:)

    Linda - It's definitely not a series for everyone, but it's a favorite of mine!

    Heidi - I think this series is made of win:, I hope you get a chance to read it!

  22. I'm back! Lol, it's nice that even though the villain has changed, you can count on Estep's writing and characters to remain as terrific as usual. I love the Mythos Academy series so maybe I'll give her UF series a try in the future.

  23. This is one series I've wanted to read for awhile! I'll definitely be watching the used bookstore for the first book so I can give it a try. I'm happy to see that the series is turning out awesome!

  24. I've been reading her YA series and haven't started this one yet. But I know how much you like it. I know I've read spoilers by reading this review, but was there any question she'd defeat her nemesis Mab unless the series was going to end. So I don't think anything is spoiled for me. So many series, so little time. I'll get to this one one day because you make it sound so fun!


  25. Wow! This sounds like such a captivating series. I haven't read much urban fantasy lately, but this sounds just like the series to hook me once again. Thanks for sharing this great review!

  26. Oh I'll be starting this one very soon. Donovan is back? Grrrr.... Although... She really should go back to him so I can take care of Owen. *sigh* Looks like I'll be falling harder for him in this one. WHY... oh WHY isn't he real? *sob*


    Oh... Um... Yes, this sounds like a great adventure to add to Gin's series. :D

  27. I'm quite literally counting the days for this story! Gin is one of my all-time favorite female characters - so complicated and interesting.

    I'm a bit growly that Donovan is back...Owen had better kick his ass!

  28. Ive never heard of this before but its sure a great series, I will definitely check this one out. Great review!


  29. I still have to read a single book from her! But I know you also liked her YA series?

    And... those books here sound actually really great and they have to considering that you still stick to this series and gave it such a high rating. I guess I'll start soon.
    Oh and I just love a kick ass heroine and Gin sounds like one! :)) Totally going to start this series! Thanks!

  30. So happy my copy is on it's way in the mail, even happier to hear the momentum was not lost when Gin defeated Mab!

  31. Glad you liked this one that much Jenny :) !! I can't wait to read one of Jennifer Estep's books .. The Mythos Academy series sounds awesome but I'd love to give a try to her adult series as well !! Thanks for the fabulous review :)

  32. GAH! I could kick myself for not having read this series already! I know I love her writing from her ya series but I need to read this one too!